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Get Innovative about Funding

There’s now more funding for innovation than ever before.

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Erika van der Merwe, CEO of the South African Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SAVCA), says South Africa’s young yet lively venture capital ecosystem is building momentum, with the increased availability of funding mechanisms for innovation being one important driver of this growth.

 

Successful venture capital-backed businesses rely on far more than funding, other essential components being:

  • Mentorship of entrepreneurs
  • Access to networks and markets
  • An enabling business and regulatory environment.

“Typically, though, entrepreneurs perceive access to funding as the major stumbling block to the bringing-to-market of their start-up businesses or ideas,” says Van der Merwe.

“Successful models of innovation funding adopted elsewhere in the world entail meaningful support from government, ranging from direct funding to the creation of a supportive environment through sensible incentives that stimulate investment.”

State funding for tech

South Africa gradually is establishing the foundation in this regard, with state funding for research and early-stage ventures available through various structures.

An important role-player is the state-funded Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), established to bring very early-stage ventures towards the point of viability and scalability. TIA last year announced that it would make R300m available for early-stage investment.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), another self-funded state-owned entity, also plays a pivotal role in financing innovation. Its venture capital fund is mandated to enable the conversion of technology-rich South African intellectual property into a market-ready product, and ultimately its commercialisation.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) offers funding support for start-ups through a wide range of mechanisms, including the SPII programme, an initiative which the IDC administers on behalf of the DTI.

The DTI recently launched a dedicated website to make the selection and application for the various initiatives much simpler for entrepreneurs – a positive step in an environment mired in red tape.

Private sector funding

Van der Merwe points out, “Compared to government initiatives, private-sector funding for innovation in South Africa is less concentrated and fairly diverse in form, and has grown substantially in recent years.

“Institutional investment into venture capital funds by private-sector institutions is rare: Pension funds, life insurers and banks, for example, are focused instead on funding more established technologies and businesses, usually through listed assets or private equity.”

 Venture capital

Venture capital funds rely on investment from corporates, government, development finance institutions and family offices. “The number of South African funds, as well as the value and volume of transactions, is increasing, says Van der Merwe.

“There is also substantial interest from offshore investors and funds for active participation in the local venture capital industry. Current legislation weighs on this process, though.”

Angel investors

There has also been the establishment of angel networks, as angel investors are a critical part of the funding ecosystem and work closely with venture capital funds. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who usually are entrepreneurs in their own right, with an understanding of venturing and a passion for giving back to the start-up community.

Their backing may come in the form of allocations into a venture capital fund, in which case they do not play a role in the selection of the underlying technologies and entrepreneurs.

Angel funding in other instances is channelled directly to the entrepreneur, through regular pitching sessions held by dozens of incubators and accelerators across the country, or through the angels’ own networks.

SARS supports innovation investment

An amendment in recent years to the South African Income Tax Act has created a welcome inducement for individuals, trusts and companies to invest into innovation.

Section 12J of the Act offers tax relief for allocations into qualifying and registered venture capital funds, and represents an important first step towards building a sensible and beneficial incentive structure for private sector venture funding.

Corporate investment

Van der Merwe says, “Corporate investing into innovation is a further exciting trend in South Africa. Where large firms in years gone by had budgets for research and development that was overseen by in-house scientists, the move now is for companies to insource innovation by buying start-ups. In some cases these larger companies are seeing the benefits of offering the innovators early-stage business support services to increase the likely success of the commercialisation of the innovations.”

Innovation takes time and by its nature is prone to uncertainty and risk. Boosting innovative activity in South Africa will require decisive implementation of wide-ranging support measures for creative thinking, business development, deepening of market networks and increased international collaboration.

Carefully crafted funding options that embody the deployment of patient risk capital by both the public and private sector are one part of this solution.

 

 

 

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Great Bunch Of Entrepreneurs Make Top 10 In The Workspace/MiWay Competition

The top 10 in The Workspace/MiWay entrepreneur competition have been selected.

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After an intense four-month process, the top 10 contenders in The Workspace/MiWay Entrepreneur competition have been notified that they’re through to the next round. These entrepreneurs will pitch their businesses to the judges, who will then whittle down the number of contenders to five, from which the winner will be chosen.

“There has been great excitement over the past four months. As every single new entry came in, we would clap our hands and cheer,” said Mari Schourie, CEO of The Workspace. It was a tough job judging all the entries to reach the top 20 submissions, she said, before having to find the top 10.

“We’ve had really strong entries submitted by people with good business knowledge,” said Schourie. “You can see the willingness to work hard and the great amount of effort they have put into their initiatives.”

Schourie said judges saw “wonderful ideas and fabulous business minds and quality people with big dreams shine through the entries”.

The top 10 are:

  1. Loyal 1
  2. Dwyka Mining Services
  3. Minatlou Trading 251
  4. Sindis Best for all
  5. Convergence Three
  6. Zinde Zinde
  7. Matla Risk Management
  8. Artsort Trading
  9. Iconic Talent Agency
  10. Nthedikgwadi Transport Services

Related: How to Name (Or In Some Cases, Rename) Your Company

Schourie said she wished she could tell President Cyril Ramaphosa, who supports the growth of small business as an economic driver, “the ideas and the passion that these business owners have is inspiring and should be focused on more”.

The prize on offer – worth over R350 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.

Morné Stoltz, Head of Business Insurance at MiWay, said the theme that ran throughout the entries was that entrepreneurs wanted to make a difference and contribute to positive change in South Africa. “Many of the submissions focused on technical and developmental fields,” he said.

“Entrepreneurs recognise gaps in the market and see the potential for growth. Getting into the top 10 was not at all easy.”

Stoltz said South Africa had a “great bunch of entrepreneurs” and that standing together to give them a platform to launch was an exciting opportunity. “To grow our economy we need to help with skills development and give whatever assistance we can,” he said.

Part of the finalists’ road to the top includes a skills development programme for the top 10 entrants ahead of their important date to pitch their business plans to the judges.

As Schourie pointed out, it is vital to encourage South African citizens to act on their dreams and passions because “it can be a great success; they just need make that leap”.

Dates to watch:

  • 21 June: Top 10 skills development programme
  • 3 July: Top 10 pitches
  • 6 July: Top 5 announcement
  • 20 July: Final five workshops
  • 10 August: Final five pitches
  • 13 September: Winner announced

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Top 22 Start-ups Chosen For Final Selection Days – Startupbootcamp Africa

After receiving 1,004 applications from all over the world, the SBC team in conjunction with the programme’s corporate sponsors have narrowed the applicants down to 22 top-tier tech start-ups that will be invited to the Final Selection Days on July 11th and 12th at PwC’s headquarters in Cape Town.

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SBC Africa received 1,004 total applications from 77 countries on 5 continents. The start-ups that applied were exceptionally impressive and have gained more traction in the market than the applicants for the 2017 cohort. The talent in Africa is phenomenal and the corporate sponsors and SBC team dedicated 2 weeks to narrow it down to the Top 22 to be invited to Final Selection Days.

“It’s been an intense process due to the exceptionally high calibre of start-ups applying to the programme from across the continent,” states Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of Startupbootcamp Africa. “From 1,004 applications we have managed to narrow down to 22 of the most creative teams tackling daunting African problems. One of the key differentiators for start-ups that participate in the SBC Accelerator is the opportunity to secure commercial contracts with our sponsors. In order to make it onto our Top 22, each start-up has been chosen by at least 2 sponsors for potential proof of concept projects. The 2018 cohort is already shaping up to be a milestone moment for Africa.”

Related: How to Name (Or In Some Cases, Rename) Your Company

Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Startupbootcamp Africa added, “The investment community across Africa is taking note of the significant traction and access to market that being an alumni of a global accelerator programme like ours provides. We are excited to further galvanize venture capital funding into tech startups through significant de-risking of business models and customer validation with our corporate partners globally.”

From the 22 teams that have been invited to the SBC Africa Final Selection Days, 10 will be selected to join the 2018 cohort. Over the span of the two Final Selection Days, the startups in attendance will have the opportunity to present their pitches to high-profile corporate sponsors, investors, thought leaders and industry experts and will have the chance to sit down with mentors and sponsors alike. At the end of Day Two, the Top 10 will be announced and will be welcomed to the Cape Town-based Accelerator that kicks off in August. During the 3-month period, they will have the opportunity to scale at an incredible pace and seal pilot and proof of concept deals with the corporate sponsors to the programme.

The SBC Africa Accelerator is anchored and endorsed by heavyweight corporate sponsors RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Old Mutual and PwC.

“We’ve seen an increase in the quality of start-ups applying to the programme. The awareness of the value of the programme has increased and the success of the first year of the bootcamp speaks for itself. More mature start-ups are also seeing the benefits of participating in Startupbootcamp Africa,” comments Stanley Gabriel, Head of Innovation at Old Mutual.

The Top 22 start-ups invited to the Final Selection Days come from 7 different countries. The numbers are as follows: 8 from Nigeria, 5 from South Africa, 3 from Uganda, 2 from the Ivory Coast, 2 from Kenya, 1 from Ghana and 1 from Ireland.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

The names of the start-ups invited to Final Selection Days by country:

  • Nigeria: Bankly Technologies, Biyabot, CredPal, FriendsVow, Kudimoney Bank, Medikal HMS, NebulaPay, and ZEEZZ Planet Solutions.
  • South Africa: Brandbookalytics Big Data, ifileme, LÜLA, Prospa, and Akiba Digital
  • Uganda: CoinPesa Ltd, RoundBob Uganda, and Swipe 2 Pay
  • Ivory Coast: Digitech Group, and DISTRICASH
  • Kenya: Kakbima, and MPost
  • Ghana: Inclusive Financial Technologies
  • Ireland: Pago Payments

It has been an incredible 3-month scouting journey for SBC Africa and now that the Top 22 have been announced, the Final Selection Days is the only hurdle left before the Accelerator officially kicks off on 13 August 2018.

There are high expectations for the Top 10 of 2018 and if the quality of the start-ups at this stage is any indication, 2018 is set to be a great success for the African tech and innovation ecosystem.

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She Works Hard For Her Money – So Pay Her On Time

Sage research finds that female entrepreneurs suffer more negative effects from late payments than men. Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Sage Pay, comments on the importance of equal pay for equal work.

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Women fight inequality and discrimination every day. They fight for equal pay for equal work. They challenge gender stereotypes in their careers and personal lives. They question unfair social and political norms. They unify under passionate causes, evidenced recently by the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.

With female business builders making up nearly 40% of the global workforce – and heading up 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises in South Africa – any kind of discrimination is unacceptable from a cultural and economic point of view, especially when it involves failure to pay what is owed.

The impact of late payments on small businesses has been widely discussed as an issue that must be eradicated for all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender. But inequality still exists and more needs to be done to eradicate it.

Recent research by Sage highlights that this discrimination doesn’t just impact women in large corporates. Indeed, it identified a worrying trend: female entrepreneurs are more likely to suffer from late payments than their male counterparts.

South Africa was among the six regions (out of 11) surveyed by Sage that reported higher instances of women business builders being paid late. Businesses run by female entrepreneurs in South Africa report that 18% of invoices are paid late and 10% of invoices are written off as bad debt.

Small businesses cannot absorb these costs nor the lost hours spent on admin – amounting to R564 000 in South Africa. The result can be disastrous: in the next 12 months, 1 in 4 female entrepreneurs will prioritise chasing late payments to be more cost efficient, and ironically will become less productive. If these businesses are not paid on time, they will also struggle to pay bonuses and suppliers, and will be forced to delay investments in their businesses.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

The fact that late or non-payments is a more common occurrence experienced by female entrepreneurs is part of a wider problem. Women report more instances of sexist comments, disregard for their business ambitions and lack of female mentors as significant underlying reasons why there is now a heightened cultural stigma around chasing late payments amongst female entrepreneurs – more so than men.

In South Africa, the stigma extends past culture, with 40% of Small & Medium Businesses failing to follow up on late payments to protect client relationships. Time and resources are also challenges, with 24% of small businesses saying they don’t have a dedicated resource to chase payments and 13% saying they don’t have time.

There is no place for bias in business – all entrepreneurs should be free to pursue their ambitions without suffering the consequences of these cultural barriers that are encountered far too often – regardless of gender.

Now is the time to disrupt and challenge these harmful stereotypes and create a force for good, making sure that small businesses – the engine room of all economies – are paid what they are duly owed for the services they deliver to our economy.

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